Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Learning to Chill

After my run today, submersing myself (and my burning legs... and my accidental sunburn) in cool water sounded great. The pool, however, isn't cold enough (I swear you'll never hear me say that in any other context). My legs have been burning for about 2 weeks now and desperate times call for desperate measures. I decided to resort to the old cross-country runner's standby: an ice bath. It's such a great recovery tool! So much better than just stretching (which, trust me, I do) and Advil.

I think I've only psyched myself up for 2 other ice baths in my life, both senior year of high school. I told Ross that last time I did this, I spent 20 minutes in the tub reading Boston College pamphlets and dreaming of majoring in theology. Funny how choosing a college when you're 18 really can be the biggest decision you'll ever make! My life would be so different if I'd enrolled at BC after getting that glorious acceptance letter!

Anyway, I filled the tub 1/3 of the way with cold water and then dumped about 13 lbs of ice in! It melted pretty quickly, making a uniformly icy cold bath.

Getting in was not fun. But I forgot the best part of an ice bath... after about 5 minutes, your legs get fuzzy and numb and you can't even tell it's cold! I kept having Ross stick his hand in to make sure that water was still icy enough to benefit from it.

You know you're a runner (and grew up biking and dancing) when your legs are flat on the bottom of the tub but your quads aren't covered in water. Boo. I had to keep swishing the water around because my quads needed ice the most.

Ross just had to document this even because he thought it was so funny that I'm always cold, yet I was willingly subjecting myself to an ice bath. Then he got all worried (he took whitewater kayak rescue classes in college) that the water was "wetsuit temperature" and I was going to get hypothermia. The nurse in me reassured him that my nailbeds and lips were still pink, and my torso felt plenty warm. When my arms did start to get goosebumps after 15-20 minutes, I knew it was time to get out (and apply aloe vera to my sunburn). I may have taken a cold bath, but I'm going to be burning up tonight!

I had an uncomfortable workout in the noonday sun today, but the most important part is this: today I realized that getting back into running is also helping me build character. (Corny, I know, but bear with me). I had a tough run today... not tough on paper, but tough on my mind and body. I ran 2.58 miles in 30 minutes. Hardly record-breaking, even by my own personal standards!

That poster made me smile during my "race" on Saturday, but my burning quads are reminding me I don't really want to run all day long :o) My legs never loosened up on my run today. I ran outside on an unshaded trail at 11:30am and it was already a humid 85 degrees. But despite my snail-like pace and discomfort, my negative-nelly mindset never showed up for our usual run date. Could it be that I'm *gasp* growing more mature?!

Never once did I freak out, and the thought of NOT finishing never even crossed my mind! I kind of zoned out, really. Definitely not the "runner's high" type of zoned out. More like my mind just decided, "this is really uncomfortable but it's going to last 30 whole minutes so I'm just going to think of something else entirely."

I know there are days that a full workout just isn't in the cards; I've had several of these since January. I start and I just never warm up. Instead of adrenaline, I get hit with overwhelming fatigue and I know in my heart that finishing a workout like that will do more harm than good. But most days, workouts are just hard. They push me out of my comfort zone, but I know I need to push myself and focus on my achievements instead of my unrealistic expectations.

I'd love to wake up and run an easy 5 miles tomorrow morning, but that's not something that happens overnight. Last November when I was alternating running 1 minute and walking 2 minutes, I couldn't fathom running 4 minutes at a time with just a 1 minute walking break between reps, which I've been doing for a week and a half now. Today I can't imagine running 3 miles without stopping, but I know I've done it before and I will do it again. I ran 1 mile without stopping on Saturday, so I know I'm getting closer! For me, running is JUST AS MUCH of a mental workout as a physical one.

I needed a mental and physical change of pace last week-- 2 weeks of rain was really wearing on me. I swam laps at the gym and a few minutes into my workout, I started to wonder (as I always do) why I don't swim more often! It's really quite nice, mentally. I'm always able to relax during swims and I don't count laps, I just go. When my arms start to hurt, I switch to breaststroke for a few laps and then resume freestyle. Sometimes I just kick, sometimes I do arm drills. But my thoughts are always pleasant (except when I see floating gobs of stuff, at which point I have to immediately remind myself that I'm swimming in gallons of chlorine).

Anyway, my point is that swimming is a good change for me mentally as well as physically and I should do it more often. Maybe that mindset will carry over to my running? As an added perk, I was drying off in the locker room and an older woman told me I was a strong swimmer. She said I make it look so easy! I muttered something bashful about how I splash a lot and I'm sure my face turned bright red. But then I claimed my senses, looked her in the eye, and said "thanks!" Compliments about my strength can only improve my mindset, and my mood was sunny the rest of the evening despite the pouring rain.

*We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.* —Carlos Castaneda

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